When booking a trip, we typically have several checklists occupying space in our minds. There’s our checklist of what we’ll be bringing on the trip: toothbrush, hiking shoes, pajamas, snacks… do I need a swimsuit? What about a coat? Then there’s the checklist of our goals for the trip and any sites we want to see, followed closely by our day-to-day plans on how we’re going to accomplish those goals: so we’ll go to The D’Orsay in the morning, walk along the Seine in the afternoon, and meet up with the rest of the family tomorrow for a trip to Versailles. Finally, there are our accommodation plans which have their own separate checklist that we’ve meticulously researched. It requires many considerations such as cost, location, room type/size, etc. And now, for many of us, we also want to make sure we are booking a stay at a sustainable hotel.

If you’re going to be staying in one particular location for a week, two weeks, or even a month on a trip, it’s important for many of us to know whether that place has sustainable and ethical standards. You’ll be supporting this hotel with your business so you want to make sure your money is going toward a chain that shares your ethical standards. Here are five questions to ask potential hotels or accommodations to make sure that they’re either sustainable or working toward sustainability.

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As A Sustainable Hotel, What Is Your Hotel Doing To Reduce Trash Waste?

One of the biggest carbon footprints made by hotels is through trash. There are many efforts that hotel chains can make in order to reduce their trash waste. For example, rather than providing a mini-fridge full of bottled water, they can provide complimentary refillable bottles and insert water refill stations strategically around the hotel.

Although recycling is a standard that most modern hotels abide by, increasing the number of recycling cans and limiting the number of trash cans is a great way to encourage guests to recycle. Many hotels have even found new and creative ways to recycle plastic bottles, glass bottles, etc. into amenities. For example, Voco in Dubai recycles plastic bottles into the luxury duvets they use in guest rooms. In addition, the Six Senses Hotel recycles glass bottles into supplies for cement or even into artistic keepsake ornaments for guests.

Another manner in which hotels can reduce their impact on landfills is to buy their shampoo, conditioner, soap, and other bathroom amenities in bulk. You’ve likely seen those tiny shampoo bottles in a lot of hotels, but have you thought about how much waste they produce? According to IHG hotels, by replacing the tiny bottles with bulk items, they’ve managed to save 200 million bottles per year across their various hotels.

Rather than wasting plastic by making keycards that will likely be thrown away, another green initiative hotels will implement is keyless entry using a phone app or key code. Additionally, hotel furniture goes through a lot of wear and tear, so finding a hotel who purchases furniture from sustainable and ethically sourced suppliers is another important step in making sure the hotel you’re visiting is as environmentally conscious as possible

As A Sustainable Hotel, What Is Your Hotel Doing To Reduce Food Waste?

A second area that is important to look into when searching for an ethical and environmentally friendly hotel is their food conservation efforts. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted each year. One way that hotels have begun to limit their food waste is to purchase locally-sourced fresh food and produce. Many hotels have even begun growing their own produce, herbs, or spa remedies in their own gardens. Both of these options not only provide a much more environmentally conscious food supply but also give guests a real taste of local cuisine as opposed to having food imported in from other areas.

In addition, instead of throwing out leftover food, many environmentally-conscious hotel chains have implemented composting programs to recycle leftover food into organic fertilizer for plants. Some even work with charities and donate any extra food to them to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.

Hotels have even begun using technology as a way to find areas that they can reduce waste. For example, the Winnow system scans leftovers to show any patterns in food waste. If there’s a specific dish that guests don’t seem to finish, the system will alert them of the pattern which allows them to make adjustments to the menu in order to limit their food waste.

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As A Sustainable Hotel, What Water Conservation Efforts Has Your Hotel Implemented?

Water conservation efforts are also very important when it comes to hotel management. Many hotels have added low-flow faucets and showerheads in order to increase water conservation. Some even install smart showers which limit the shower time to a preset time and alert users when their time is almost up.

Washing machines are one of the biggest water users in hotels and, according to Hydrofinity, switching to low-water laundry systems can save hotels up to 80% of water usage. Many have also switched to using low-flow or dual flush toilets in order to further conserve water.

Some hotels have even gone so far as to create their own water recovery and recycling systems, which can make them even more appealing for the environmentally conscious traveler.

As A Sustainable Hotel, What Energy Conservation Efforts Has Your Hotel Implemented?

As an environmentally conscious traveler, this is likely the first area you’ll look into to make sure a hotel holds your values. There are many ways hotels have worked to conserve energy, starting with using LED lights and light sensors so that the lights in the hallways and guest rooms don’t waste too much energy. In addition, installing a thermostat with either remote adjustment capabilities or occupancy sensors allows one to make sure the temperature controls aren’t using too much power.

Similar to hotels installing their own water recovery systems, the very green hotel options attempt to utilize their own source of renewable energy. Some hotels in sunny locations have turned to solar energy to supplement their power and there are others that run almost exclusively on wind energy. In some cases, hotels will install geothermal cooling towers instead of the typical air conditioning model.

This is another area where it’s important to make sure a hotel is using sustainable suppliers when it comes to anything they purchase. Knowing that they’re not only being environmentally conscious but that they’re also making sure they’re supporting suppliers who have a small carbon footprint is extremely meaningful.

It is also great to see a hotel using their resources to encourage and help guests limit their energy usage during their stay. For example, providing electric car charging stations, e-scooter rental stations, bike rental stations, or implementing group shuttle programs that make stops at local tourist attractions shows that the hotel is making conscious efforts to reduce fossil fuel usage.

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As A Sustainable Hotel, Do You Have Any ‘Green Team’ Initiatives With Your Staff?

This question essentially means learning how is the hotel encouraging their staff to be environmentally conscious as well. For example, some hotels will provide their employees with training on the best sustainable practices in their various areas of work. This program will involve areas such as proper training on recycling or composting best practices. Many hotels will have incentive programs for employees who abide by these guidelines in order to create extra encouragement. Some will even have a ‘green team’ on staff whose jobs revolve around creating new green initiatives and projects to help the company become more sustainable each year.

Instead of using typical cleaning supplies, many sustainable hotels will have employees use organic non-toxic cleaning supplies which are much safer for the environment. In addition, creating signage and packets to encourage guests to participate in these safe practices is a great initiative to look for as well. For example, guests may be encouraged to reuse towels or see a packet showing them bike trails to try. Guest rooms may also have signage serving as a reminder to turn off their lights when they leave the room. These initiatives show that not only are employees attempting to be green, but guests are encouraged to as well.

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